Florida men’s tennis preps for ITA indoors

The Florida men’s tennis team begins play on Friday at the 2013 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship. The University of Washington is serving as the host institution of the 39th annual Championship at The Nordstrom Tennis Center and Seattle Tennis Club in Seattle, Wash.

Florida will face No. 5 Pepperdine in the first round on Friday at 5:30 p.m. In the second round, the Gators will face either No. 4 Ohio State or No. 13 Cal on Saturday. Florida reached the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship finals in 2003, and first-year head coach Bryan Shelton will be looking to lead the Gators to their first title at the event.

“This is a great opportunity for our team to play the very best teams in the nation this weekend,” said head coach Bryan Shelton. “Out of the 16 teams here, I am glad that the SEC has 7. That says a lot about how strong our conference is again this year. We are ready to tee it up with last years final four team in Pepperdine. They have a great squad, so we have to come out of the blocks quickly. It should be a fun weekend.”

The Gators head into this year’s Championship ranked No. 11 in the ITA Men’s Team Rankings, which is also the seed they were awarded. Florida is 6-0, but will be competing in a dual match outside the state of Florida for the first time this season. The Gators own wins over No. 28 Florida State, No. 39 UNC Wilmington, No. 54 Miami (Fla.), and No. 71 St. John’s.

Three Florida singles players are ranked nationally, led by 36th-ranked Florent Diep, along with 78th-ranked senior Bob van Overbeek and 108th-ranked Stephane Piro. Diep and fellow junior Michael Alford represent the Gators in doubles at 46th in the nation.

Pepperdine reached the National Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and the fifth-ranked and fifth-seeded Waves are off to a good start in the 2013 season as well. Pepperdine brings a perfect 5-0 record into the weekend, with victories over No. 16 Texas, No. 24 Washington (in Seattle), No. 28 Florida State, and No. 52 Denver.

The Waves are led by senior Sebastian Fanselow, ranked fourth nationally in singles. Fellow senior Finn Tearney (105) and junior college transfer Alex Sarkissian (89) have also played their way into the ITA Men’s Singles Rankings.

Pepperdine has won the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship twice in program history, with the last coming in 1986. The Waves have also advanced to the finals two other times, including in 2006, the same season they won the NCAA Championship.

The field of 16 teams includes the top 15 teams in the latest ITA Men’s National Team Rankings, plus the host Washington, who is ranked 24th. In all, 13 of the 15 No. 1 seeds participating in the fifth annual ITA Kick-Off Weekend were able to advance to Seattle. Cal, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Pepperdine, UCLA, USC, and Virginia were all able to hold serve at home; Illinois and Stanford were not as fortunate. Tennessee emerged from the Illinois site as the No. 4 seed, while Texas A&M did the same at Stanford, to earn the right to compete for the prestigious national title.

A total of six conferences will be represented at this year’s Championship, with almost half of the draw being made up of SEC teams, as the conference is sending an impressive seven teams to Seattle. Four Pac-12 teams will be in the field this year, along with two from the ACC. The Big 12, Big Ten, and West Coast Conference each have one squad in the draw. For the complete draw, click here.

For complete coverage of the 2013 ITA Division I National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, for updates and news from the weekend’s events. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets in regards to the event, or search the term “ITAIndoors” to find others who are tweeting from across the nation about this year’s Championship, Feb. 15-18.

Courtesy of UF Communications